The Bold Warrior and The Crafty Warrior

Let me tell a story.

Once upon a time there were two warriors. They knew each other in passing and were distantly related. The first warrior was strong and bold. He was cocky, brash, and beloved. The second warrior was cunning and crafty. He was agile, thoughtful, and inspiring.

One day another warrior who was cousin to the first and brother to the second rose up to make himself a kingdom. He was blood thirsty and covetous. He slew some of his neighbors and enslaved others. His kinsman tried to reason with him, but this tyrant knew no restraint. He would not rest until all bent the knee to him. And so the bold warrior and the crafty warrior took up arms and faced the tyrant in battle.

It was a bloody war that was waged all across the land. In the end the bold warrior and the crafty warrior overthrew the tyrant and cast him down. The land was scared and wrecked. The crafty warrior saw his chance to finally fulfill his desire to rule. He began to scheme and extend his influence and his lands. The bold warrior only wanted to retire to his own lands and return to the plow. Instead he stayed at arms and sought to protect the land from the machinations of the crafty warrior.

Their struggle was epic and lasted ages. It was fought mostly with subterfuge and sometimes with sword and flame. The land returned to prosperity in the shadow of this conflict. The warriors ebbed and flowed in strength and power. One would have the upper hand and then the other, and the struggled continued. All the while there was nightmare that haunted the people that eventually the two warriors would wage war with all that they had at their disposal.

Then the day came when the two warriors faced each other and the bold warrior saw his chance. He saw an advantageous opening in his enemies armor. He thrust his trusted ever sharp sword into his enemy. It struck true. The crafty warrior fell. The bold warrior felt elation that this long and exhausting fight was now over. It was then that he noticed the dagger in the hand of his foe. When the bold warrior was dealing the death blow the crafty warrior had struck with a poisoned blade. The bold warrior then descended into madness as the poison spread through his body.

Did the bold warrior recover and return home or did he succumb to the poison? Here our story ends.

The story ends here because we are in the midst of living it. The United States won the Cold War and ended the Soviet Union. It may turn out to be a pyrrhic victory. During the course of that conflict we’ve become poisoned with what some are calling ‘postmodern neo Marxism’. A daunting term so let’s break it down. First “neo Marxism” and then “postmodernism”.

Classical Marxism was an all encompassing economic theory that focused on the imbalance of power between economic classes. Neo Marxism expands this class struggle to encompass almost every social group that one may belong to: sex, race, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, gender identity, and so on and so on. Unlike the traditional Western concept that one’s primary identity is that of being an individual in neo Marxist thought identity is primarily that of the social groups to which one belongs. And amongst the subdivisions of these groups there is an imbalance of power perpetrated by those who hold greater power. This imbalance must be redressed. Hence identity politics.

Postmodernism is a twin brother, excuse me, a twin non self-identified gendered sibling to neo Marxism. It posits that there is no objective truth, no objective morals, nor any objective reality. Instead these are products of society and have been imposed by those who hold power. Everything is relative to the individual. What is true for you may or may not also be true for me. In the words of Justice Kennedy, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life….” We no longer think, we ‘feel’. Hence relativism.

Our society, and even we ourselves, have been infected with this mind virus. It can be very subtle. While it is easy enough to see it in society at large you will be surprised to reflect upon your own views and opinions and see where it was crept in. What is the antidote? I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. The only advice I can give is to come to the Cross. There meet the One who will bind your wounds and show you what is true and right. Then you can begin the process of sacrificing yourself. And when we, as St. Paul wrote in Ephesians, have “…taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.” Then go forth and bind others’ wounds, speak truth, and do right.

Larry Pryor is a native Nashvillian who was raised Southern Baptist. Discovering he was a material heretic he then entered into full communion with the Catholic Church and is now a Lay Dominican. He resides just outside of Nashville with a wife who is much too good for him. He can be followed on Twitter @PryorOP.

Ecumenical Hatred Suffering From Convert Neurosis

A famous frog once stated that, “It’s not easy being green.” During the past couple of months it hasn’t been easy being me. Last month in La Civiltà Cattolica I was indirectly accused of being part of a “ecumenism of hate.” This week in Crux it was of suffering a “convert neurosis.” If that wasn’t enough according to Jeff Foxworthy I might just be a redneck.

Two notes before I begin my thoughts on these charges. First, I apologize in advance for the biting tone and snark that will follow. It’s my struggle with concupiscence. I hope to do better. Just know that it could have been far, far worse. Second, in my twenty plus years in the Church I have never been treated with anything but warmth, respect, and love by those in the local Church here in Nashville and in Chicago. If I have not returned the same I apologize and repent for my failing. The only roughness I have received has been for my spiritual health in the confessional. That I deserved and am more grateful for than words can convey.

Unhesitatingly I plead guilty to being a man of the Right. I have been since I started to become politically aware at far too young an age. Thank you President Carter. A more precise classification today would have to rely on that new fallback status of “it’s complicated.” The political landscape described by the La Civiltà Cattolica article is unrecognizable to me. Christian dominionists and Catholic integralists in a grand “ecumenism of hate” simply does not exist. Integralism is a European phenomenon, not an American one. The authors’ knowledge of American politics seems to be based on some mash up of The Brothers Grimm and The Huffington Post. On to the three characteristics of this  alliance.

Manichaeism. I’ll give partial credit for this one. It’s natural for humans to simplify disagreements to stark good versus evil. However I would point out that the political Left in the United States is far more guilty of this. As Charles Krauthamer has pointed out, “To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.”

Prosperity Gospel. Not really an American Catholic belief, unless you take it to mean a belief that because we live in a republic with a free market anyone who abides by the law and works hard has a very good chance to live well materially.

Religious Liberty. This is a danger according to the authors in that it means “a ‘religion in total freedom,’ perceived as a direct virtual challenge to the secularity of the state.” In short theocracy. While you could probably find a handful of Americans who would be up for that ,it is antithetical to the American Right. We want as little government involvement in our religion and in our lives as possible. A core of our belief as stated in Reagan’s First Inaugural is, “…government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Now for the neurosis of the convert. Austen Ivereigh at Crux posits that converts who have a problem with some of the actions of Pope Francis may be suffering from some form of spiritual post traumatic stress disorder. Unlike Baskin Robbins this comes in two flavors. The first afflicts those who come from a background that saw rancorous splits over theological issues, primarily from the Anglican Communion. They see current disagreements in the Church as a replay of that trauma. The second is for those who came from a less fixed background and came to the Church expecting an unchanging stability. Now that doctrine is developing that feel that the Church is built on sand and not rock.

I’m not sure where that leaves me. I was Southern Baptist. One of the waypoints in my journey home (see what I did there Marcus Grodi?) was reading about the development of Christology in the early Councils. That took nearly 500 years.

My reply to Mr. Ivereigh is that we converts have all paid a price to become Catholic. For most of us it was a pittance. While Jesus warned us about the treatment we would receive, it is a kick in the teeth when it comes from fellow Catholics.  Some came to the Church because we saw the truth and logic of the Magisterium, Sacred Tradition, and Sacred Scriptures buttressing each other. When the Holy Father appears to be advancing a development that is at odds with Tradition and Scripture then as a premier teacher under the Magisterium it is his duty to explain this.

You may reply that is is an “… incongruity – of those who join the Catholic Church in a blaze of Damascene fervor later announcing noisily, after a new pope is elected, that the pope is not doing what they believe popes should do.” If you will permit a convert to quote Scripture to a cradle Catholic I would point out that the first to have that “Damascene fervor” wrote the following in the second chapter of Galatians:

And when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong. For, until some people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to draw back and separated himself, because he was afraid of the circumcised. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not on the right road in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of all, “If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Pope Francis has my filial obedience and love. I pray for him as I am sure he is praying for me. I am confused. I am not saying that he is wrong. After all. “Who am I to judge?”

Truth v. Love?

We live in times where Truth and Love are often presented as being opposed to one another. There are many ways people understand their relationship with each other, but two of the noisiest groups see them as follows: one camp acts as though people who do not hold fast to the full Truth of the Gospel are reprobates worthy of intense ridicule and savage condemnation; another camp acts as though Truth is an inconvenient obstacle that is optional and interferes with our ability to make people feel loved—those who hold fast to Truth are seen as “haters” to them. Many Christians march diligently to one of these two camps with the firm belief that theirs is the authentic form of Christianity. This is how people often react to the perceived conflict, but how does God see things?

The answer is simple, and something neither side would expect: Truth and Continue To Read More

In God We Trust

“In God We Trust”, in such simple language, reveals the simple creed of A Nation’s faith.

It’s not the president, the Federal Government or the Federal Reserve we trust!   It’s not the Democrats or the Republicans!  It’s not flags, cakes, monuments or the media we place our Trust.  Our trust is not ensconced in the institutions of healthcare, the FDA or the EPA or the Pastor at the local church, our friends, neighbors or ourselves!  Our Nation’s Trust – is in God! Continue To Read More

It’s Not About Points

Not long ago on a Friday a friend and I stopped for lunch at a fast food restaurant. It being Lent my Protestant friend knew I couldn’t eat meat. What he didn’t know is that I was also on a paleo diet. Needless to say my options were rather limited. A few days later he was telling the story to his wife and turned to me and said, “You know God doesn’t give extra points for that, right?”

I knew what he meant as I had grown up in a similar evangelical tradition. The view is that you are either saved or not and there is nothing we can do to influence our salvation except to make the decision to accept Jesus as our personal lord and savior. Accepting this gift through faith God now ‘covers’ our sins and sinful nature with Christ and allows us Continue To Read More

The Easter in You: An Eastertide Reflection

The following was given as a talk at a church prayer group in Smyrna, TN.

+In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In December of last year, I wrote an article for Laudare Outreach Ministries that went up a few days after Christmas day. This article, titled very similar to this talk, was called “The Christmas in You: A Christmastide Reflection.” Three important points were made in this piece. 1) Christmas, which had occurred four days prior, was not over and done at 12:00 midnight on December 26 (though it is often treated that way by both the secular world and Christians). 2) The road to Christmas that is Advent prepares us for the great Gift we are to receive on the 25th. And 3) There are major Eucharistic implications upon the spiritual life that come with Christmas – including the realization that Christmas comes to be, quite Continue To Read More